KATHMANDU, May 17: Despite various efforts taken by the government to drive Nepali agriculture to commercialization, the access of farmers to necessary tools and equipment still stands very low.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, only 20 to 25 percent of farmers now have access to mechanization, which is regarded as one of the main elements to ensure commercialization of agriculture. “The ratio is very low for agrarian countries like Nepal,” Minister for Agriculture Padma Aryal said at a program organized by Association of Nepali Agricultural Journalists on Monday.
According to Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC), there are around 150,000 tractors in operation out of which only one-third are being used in agriculture. Of the total 700 imported combined harvesters, most of them are used in Tarai. “Although use of this harvester that performs integrated works including reaping, thrashing, gathering and winnowing helps reduce the costs to almost half, only a few farmers have been using the equipment,” said NARC chief Shreemat Shrestha.
Nepali farmers are gradually opting to use rice transplanter, seed reaper and processing machines of agricultural products. Experts say the pace, however, is very slow. Farmers continue to rely fully on traditional methods for weeding.
Shrestha said the mechanization is also poor in the irrigation process, resulting in low proportion of agricultural land to water access. While around 65 percent of arable land receives irrigation facilities, only 25 percent gets round the year water supply facilities.
Experts underlined the need for subsidized electricity supply, contract farming and proper land use policy to boost mechanization in Nepali agriculture. Agriculture expert Khoj Raj Katuwal said the government has to focus on rewarding agricultural programs rather than introducing any distributive programs.
Meanwhile, the government through the Prime Minister Agriculture Modernisation Project has targeted to boost mechanization of Nepali agriculture, according to Minister Aryal. She said the government is working to raise agriculture productivity through setting projected growth by maintaining an annual calendar.
Aryal said Nepal in partnership with the Government of Israel is implementing at least one pilot project in each of seven provinces for using advanced technology in the local farm practices.